DOJ close to approving CVS-Aetna, Cigna-Express Scripts deals

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Pedestrians walk past Aetna headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut.

The Department of Justice is close to approving CVS Health’s acquisition of Aetna and Cigna‘s acquisition of Express Scripts, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Both deals could receive formal antitrust approval as soon as the next few weeks, the people told the Journal.

Regulators will require CVS and Aetna to sell off assets related to its Medicare drug coverage in order to appease competitive concerns surrounding the nearly $70 billion deal, people familiar with the deliberations told The Wall Street Journal. One potential buyer in talks for the assets is WellCare Health Plans, though discussions between CVS, Aetna and the Justice Department are still ongoing, people told the paper.

A CVS spokeswoman pointed to comments CVS CEO Larry Merlo made last month on a call with Wall Street analysts. He said the company “contemplated a range of possibilities” in the Medicare Part D business, where both CVS and Aetna offer plans. He said they “determined the impact of any divestitures would not be material to the deal model.”

An Aetna spokesman said the company does not have comment.

Meanwhile, Cigna’s $54 billion acquisition of Express Scripts could be approved without any asset sales, people familiar with the deal review told the Journal.

An Express Scripts spokesman said the company continues “to constructively work with the Department of Justice” and remains “confident the deal will close by the end of the year.”

A Cigna spokeperson said the company continues to “work cooperatively with the DOJ and the states to discuss the many benefits of the Express Scripts transaction and remains confident that the merger will close by year-end 2018.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Shares of CVS gained 0.9 percent Wednesday, while shares of Aetna gained 1.6 percent. Cigna shares slid 0.6 percent, while shares of Express Scripts surged 4 percent.

Read the full Wall Street Journal story here.

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